When your heart feels cold

Updated: Feb 25

BUILDING YOUR INNER BONFIRE


“It’s cold. It’s bitter bitter cold, Esther.”


“I know, winter has been knocking at our doors for some time. You can feel the chill, can’t you?” I say.


“No, Esther. I don't mean the weather. It's my heart. Its cold. It’s like I’m walking in Siberia... but I know I’m only walking down the most popular streets of town, wearing my fur trimmed coat and snuggly earmuffs. There is no designer brand that can ease the cold I feel on the inside.”


I lean in.


Debra has been coming for months and hasn’t shared much about her emotions. She presents as somewhat disconnected, but always throws in a word of connection here and there, which I sometimes understand, and other times, I’m left feeling like I have a riddle to crack until the next session.


Today Debra is not joking, and she isn’t communicating in a circular fashion. She’s being straight up. It’s cold. It’s very very cold.


She’s looking at me, almost as if her eyes are asking if I understand the coldness.I look at her eyes and hold my gaze for an extra few moments. I want to hold her experience as she expresses the depth of what only can be felt, not seen.


“I feel the coldness Debra. And I want to hear more about what coldness is like for you.”


I feel an unrelenting “chill” in the air - everywhere I go.


She is holding something deep inside that is making her body feel cold, almost frozen and motionless.


As a therapist, I notice my desire to share with her that I, too, get the feeling of coldness, but I hold back. I want this moment to expand, to focus solely on her and the importance of what she just shared.


“Coldness can be a ‘cover’ to strong emotions hidden beneath the surface”


But between my own heart and mind, I know that coldness is often the feeling we experience in our bodies when we are struggling emotionally; feeling alone, confused, misunderstood, or are facing some deeper issues that are coming up from beneath the surface; Family-of-origin struggles, emotional neglect, insecurities, depression, past trauma memories resurfacing, lack of meaning or belonging.


For now, I want to hear about what it is like for her.


What I do know is that regardless of the reason for her coldness, being able to connect with another person and having a shared experience, she has the potential to alleviate the cold.

Just as her top branded earmuffs can’t dull the cold, I know that one session, one word of comfort or one healing trauma intervention may not turn the feeling of bitter cold to warm heat. But I do know that being with her in this ever-powerful experience will likely begin to defrost her a bit, and allow her to feel less alone in “Siberia”.


Debra goes on to share that she’s recently become aware of how sad her life is, in a way she had never fully been aware of before.


“I think there’s a big slice of denial, a heaping portion of dissociation, a dollop of daily distraction and a flavor of fear that’s held me back from seeing the obvious”.


I often joke with my clients, telling them they can educate others about anxiety, trauma and the nervous system after they are in treatment with me. And here, Debra is totally rocking the psych lingo and has begun to understand the coping mechanisms and her “go-to” defenses. She has slowly been chipping away at her defenses. She came in committed to developing healthier tools to function. She’s resolved most of her anxiety related to specific triggering situations.


However…


In our first meeting she had mentioned that there was some family-of-origin “rubble” she had wanted to sift through and resolve, but she very clearly said we need to leave that on the back burner for the time being.


“ I didn’t realize that becoming healthier would suddenly make more space for me to look at who I really am at my core”.


In this session, Debra began sharing, how, over the last little while, she’s come to realize that she wants more out of life than just resolving her anxiety.



“I’m hungry for more connection and love in my marriage”. She says sheepishly. “And also, I know this might be too much to ask for, and I don’t know why it’s bothering me so much lately, but I really want to feel more fulfilled in my profession.”


So there it is.


She’s been holding a lot more than the annoying anxiety that had been chirping at her for some time. Once that anxiety had reduced significantly, she had space to look at the other areas of her life that have been nagging at her unconsciously.


This new conscious awareness came with a feeling of “coldness” to Debra, because that’s how her body learned to express big emotions, especially fear.


Based on her history, “asking for more”, be it in a love relationship, or at work, feels scary. Feeling valuable, important, worthy and even having desires - though objectively good things to feel - bring up some worry for Debra.


We focus the rest of the session on addressing the internal parts that are struggling, and help her using a blend of psychodynamic psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, and EMDR therapy. While we do this work, though, we need to address ways to help her warm the coldness, using down to earth, pragmatic ideas that can cushion and support the deeper work she’s begun to do.


When your heart feels as cold as the weather outside


As a fellow traveler of the human race, I have traveled the road of pain, have met moments of sadness and sat with loss. And equally, I’ve walked a path of change and triumph. I’ve experienced the power of hope, healing and the beauty of experiencing change unfolding.


At some point or another, each of us will have to work through some long, chilled, dark days - be it a season of tough stuff, a struggle or a change.


As a therapist, I’ve seen many individuals, couples and families navigate different kinds of “tough” seasons, and I’ve also seen incredible resilience, wisdom and inner truths being spoken. I know that cold days and nights will pass, even when the person sitting in them cannot see that; I can.


Building a Bonfire - A way to create warmth when your world feels “cold”


Defrosting the inner cold is do-able.


Now, lack of warmth isn’t something that goes away overnight; rather, it’s like creating a bonfire of warmth over time. You need to first cut down trees, make them sizable to bring indoors, create a pile, find a spot to use as a fireplace, set the trees on fire and sit by and let the warmth fill the air, soothing your body, mind and heart.


If you’re walking around with some sort of coldness, here are some tips and ideas to warm your heart as you move through this cold season.



8 Tips to Build your Own Internal Bonfire.


1. Play music to bring a feeling of warmth around you: Our senses are one of the strongest doorways to our psyches, minds and souls. Listen to this playlist by Jim Reeves, “Songs to Warm your Heart” as a start. Create your own playlist and add whatever feels right to you.


2. Listen to a poem: Poetry is one of the best ways to ease your heart. Here are some poems to read out loud while sipping warm cocoa. “Hope is the Thing with Feathers” by Emily Dickenson, If you’re feeling lonely, poem by Tanya Davis, “How to be Alone” is a true healing manifesto. As well, “After the Winter” by Claude Mckay, “If Only”, by Petra Sheane “Finding Hope” by Pat. A. Fleming. There’s an inner peace that comes when reading words of comfort that resonate with you on a real level. And if you’re like me, write some of your own poetry. Poetry has been a true healing agent for me. It’s been a powerful tool to me finding my own wisdom when I’m feeling blocked or filled with emotions that overflow. So, my dear friend, whip out the poet in you if you’re ready to give that spin. (pssst, your words don’t need to rhyme or make sense, they just need to resonate with you.)

3. Emotionally Engage with yourself: Slow down and take the time to tune in to your feelings in the present moment. Get in touch with sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts, images, or memories that are in your mind or on your body. When you slow down and come just a bit closer to whatever you’re feeling, it’ll lessen the intensity of the experience and sometimes even guide you to what you need in the moment.


4. Write a handwritten note to someone dear to your heart: Think of someone you’re missing, be it a close friend or someone from the past who has been on your mind...writing a personalized card evokes a sense of connection, and love.


5. Use social media wisely, not to numb: Using social media wisely means using it to connect with loved ones, to stay in touch with people who impact your life for the positive and to share good feels all around. However, when we use social media for numbing, we are often doing so to avoid some deeper "feels", often leaving us feeling worse than before. None of us feel good when we get spiral in a web of comparison. When you catch yourself using social media to numb, take a moment and shift your focus. Focus on you, your energy and people who lift your energies and inspire your growth.

6 Organize your home: You know that feeling of calm that comes when your house in order…. When we clean up our physical space, our brain space also frees up. “doing organizational tasks activates the part of your brain which helps you get centered, focused and calm. It’s an easy way to get you out of your anxious brain, stopping the ruminating, slowing down the“what if’s”. Organizing brings your logical brain fully online, steering you clear from emotional turmoil.


7. Soul-search your Relationships: Do a soul searching… do you friends and loved ones have the ability to be there for you in a way you need? Is your relationship giving you exactly what you’re needing right now in your life? Do the people you surround yourself with have the depth you crave? Consider evaluating your relationships so you can clear out unhelpful relationships and focus on the ones that need some strengthening.


8. “Collage” your hopes, dreams, needs: Many times there are needs that we have that are hidden beneath the surface, and as long as they are unidentified and unmet, we remain with a confusing layer of irritability. The best way to do this without getting trapped in your brain is by grabbing some old newspapers and magazines and begin by just cutting out whatever pictures resonate with you. This activity is supposed to be brainless and just creativity focused. Take the photos that resonate most with you and paste them on a big paper. See if those things are in your life; and if not, what you are needing to add {or subtract} right now in your life.


You may also notice that there are some subtle things you’re needing. For example: You may be needing more alone time, more spiritual nourishment,a sense of direction or a feeling of family or communal belonging. You may be needing more respect, some more clear boundaries or to heal some sadness you’re carrying on your heart. Be open to whatever this exercise will open for you. This can be a self-discovery of who are are, and what’s needing to be uncovered, right here, right now.


And if none of those tips seem to work...


When reading the above tips, see if any resonate. Try to give at least one or two a moment of your time. If you still feel stuck, there is likely some deeper reasons for whatever you’re feeling now. If these tips just don't cut it, it may be time for some counseling, for you to get focused one-on-one support. You don’t need to go-it alone.


Good psychotherapy with a skilled therapist can help you relieve the feelings you’re holding. Many clients who engage in self-healing express a warmer feeling in their bodies, and in the relationships in their lives.


These actions can help to crack open the frosted doorway, to enter a new dimension of warmth, change and transformation.


Whatever struggle you're facing, I hope that some of my tips will help you thaw a bit from your deep winter chill.

PROJECT PROACTIVE is a US 501 (c)(3) public charity, EIN 84-2410920
aiming to break mental health stigmas and proactively alleviate barriers to health through spreading awareness and education.

MENTAL HEALTH & PSYCH EDUCATION | MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES | MENTAL HEALTH BLOG | COMMUNITY AWARENESS | PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS

*DISCLAIMER – The information on this site is provided for informational purposes only. There has been no formal vetting process for information shared on this site and readers should consult a professional for any questions or concerns regarding their health. These resources should not be viewed as a substitute for obtaining professional council.

Click here for full disclaimer and terms of use

Since we are a startup and powered by volunteers, our databases remain a work in progress and we rely on people like YOU to help us stay current.
Please e-mail us at
info@jproactive.com to share resources, ideas, or to submit a blog post. We will do our best to get back to you as soon as possible.

© 2019 by Project Proactive. 

Big shout out to Bitmoji for inspiring our vibe.